Overview of Blockchain Implementation in Healthcare

Overview of Blockchain Implementation in Healthcare

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Blockchain was initially developed as a fiat currency’s digital alternative, but its features soon found practical use in other industries as well.

Decentralized digital ledgers can provide a lot of value to various organizations and entities, especially if they are dealing with some of the most significant issues that plague humankind. Blockchain significantly lowers the costs of trade by developing digital smart contracts which exclude the third parties that are ramping up the prices in traditional ecosystems.

Apart from banking and high-tech sectors, the public service sectors can seriously use help from this technology that provides advanced analytics and interoperability with minimal risk of breaches in security and privacy.

As a result, entrepreneurs used blockchain to create innovative products that reinvented the efficiency and resiliency of already existing systems. Decentralized ledgers enable the practical use of mobile phones, cloud technology, and IoT which brings forward better decision-making model for the healthcare industry.

How can Blockchain be used for Healthcare?

There are many potential applications for blockchain in healthcare. Many of them create more time for doctors and nurses and increase the safety of patients.

The organization and operation of health systems around the world are fragmented to physicians, specialists, general practitioners, diagnostic clinics, hospitals, community clinics, private medical clinics, and centers, etc. which all have their electronic medical system for data management.

Inconveniently, often patients move from one city or country to another and having their doctors’ notes and all personal medical data available wherever they go, is not only useful but even necessary for various reasons. Blockchain can make this a reality across the entire globe, enabling all data management systems to connect to a single, decentralized network, with no possibility of failure.

Another benefit of applying Blockchain in healthcare is the quality control for supply chains in the pharmacy industry. A lot of the drugs are either stolen or replaced in the supply chain, and blockchain can help prevent that, and lead to the capture of those who would abuse and contaminate the pharmaceutical supply chains.

Blockchain can find itself applicable in hosting, securing, and sharing new medical research. Conducted on a regular basis and results are published across the entire year, without decentralized ledgers it is challenging for doctors to keep up with emerging new drugs on the market and information about techniques that have been proven to be successful at treating various ailments. 

To list a few possible implementations:

  • Supply chain probity
  • Drug development & Medical Research
  • Data / Cybersecurity and  Healthcare IoT
  • Claims & Billing management
  • Ambulance and Emergency response

Benefits of using blockchain in healthcare

The administration of various information and reports is a very mental intensive labor, which is often wasted due to the inability to communicate because of various limitations in the healthcare system. Blockchain can elevate this to the next level.

Blockchain technology incorporates into a single, easily accessible database where doctors can find all patients’ diagnoses, medical histories, information about which doctors conducted each treatment, the medication and dosage they prescribed regardless of the type of electronic medical systems they used.

This maximizes the results from the effort that doctors put into doing administrative work, and most of it can be replaced with productive doctor-patient relationship and care.

Blockchain solves another severe issue – data protection and privacy which can additionally contribute to more reliable research results in developing or testing a new drug or treatment therapy as well as a superior quality control of the supply chain.

Blockchain’s ledger transparency guarantees minimum risks of claims and billing frauds thus reducing damage done to the health system of more than 200 million dollars per year.  

In short, it can help healthcare industries maximize the effectiveness of their doctors, while at the same time minimizing the repetitive data-entry and recovery activities that limit the doctors. With blockchain, all documents can be encrypted, yet accessible at any time.

Blockchain implementations in Healthcare

Blockchain could potentially give doctors so many benefits, more free time means more time for patients, making doctors better superheroes than they already are.

MedRec is one prototype that implements blockchain for keeping and managing electronic health records and medical research data. It enables secure immediate access to patients’ records by other medical programs which avoids waste of time due to bureaucracy and procedure duplication.

In case of emergency, this is a life-saver. In addition, upon patient’s permission, it anonymously gives access to a medical record for research purposes and medical breakthroughs. MedRec is developed and supported by MIT Media Lab and a grant from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Here are some of the companies that have already implemented or are working on putting blockchain systems to the test:

Mainstream Healthcare and Blockchain

A long time may pass before we see blockchain being used as a powerful tool in the operating halls, but work is being done on getting closer to this state.

Many impediments need to be resolved before blockchain becomes widely accepted as a mainstream technology:

  • Deficiency of established blockchain standards.
  • Solving difficulties in inter-blockchain communication.
  • The necessity of developing off-chain system interfaces.
  • Faster development of interface independent from any third parties.
  • Making changes in consciousness and understanding of blockchain.

Taking into consideration that medical errors are among top five causes of death in the USA, we can all agree that incorporating decentralized technology to integrate and manage health data and medical records is more than necessary.

The future for blockchain in healthcare is inevitable, as a matter of fact, it already began.

How long do you think it will be before mainstream implementation?

 

Featured Image via BigStock.

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